Home Electrical Safety is In Your Hands

ElectricalYour home can be a safe place, but only if you take safety seriously and put a plan in place. Unfortunately, hidden dangers may be lurking close by that could threaten your family's safety and well-being. Take this opportunity to find out just how safe your home is from electrical hazards.

Nearly 32,000 fires in the home were caused by faulty house wiring or damaged wiring devices each year between 1999 and 2002, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Don't despair, however, as there is something you can do to safeguard your home from dangerous electrical hazards. The Leviton Institute recommends that homeowners conduct an inspection of their home and outdoor areas once a year.

To start, check to be certain pool pumps, hot tubs and outdoor appliances that require electricity are plugged into GFCI-protected outlets with weatherproof covers. Ground fault circuit interruptors safeguard you and your loved ones from dangerous electrical shock. GFCIs detect when current is leaking from an electrical circuit to ground and automatically shut off the power at the receptacle. They have saved thousands of lives since their introduction in 1972. When choosing a GFCI, it's important to ensure the device is stamped with the UL logo.

In addition, kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, or any other place around the house that has a water source within six feet of the receptacle needs GFCI protection. Check all outlets and switches for cracks, broken parts or loose-fitting plugs. Replace defective devices immediately, as well as those that feel hot to the touch. You should also inspect all power cords and extension cords: Those showing signs of cracking, fraying or obvious wear should be replaced immediately. Never run extensions under rugs, carpets or furniture where damage can hide.

Make sure outlets are not overloaded. Most household outlets are typically rated around 15-20 amps. Plugging too many appliances into one outlet can exceed that rating and create a fire or shock hazard.

When you use an extension cord, always plug the appliance into the extension cord first before plugging the extension cord into the outlet.

You can help avoid electrical shock, burns and fires by beginning your year-round electrical safety awareness efforts now. This is the word being put out by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

"Despite the fact that improved product safety engineering, standards and electrical codes have reduced electrical hazards, thousands suffer from electrical shock and fires each year," said ESFI President Brett Brenner.

To increase electrical safety awareness and protect those at home and in the workplace, ESFI has developed an electrical safety tool kit that includes statistics on electrical hazards and recommendations to avoid electrical shock, burns and fires.

An average of 400 people are electrocuted each year and thousands more are injured because of electrical hazards. To curb the leading cause of electrocutions each year, note locations of power lines at home and on the job. Power line contact with construction equipment and items such as ladders and gardening tools are among the leading causes of electrocutions.

Greater use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), which protect both those in your home and workplace against lethal electrical currents, can further reduce the number of electrocutions.

Estimates indicate electricity causes 140,000 fires each year, which kill hundreds of people, injure thousands more, and cause $1.6 billion in property damage. Aging electrical systems, combined with the growing power demands, contribute to electrical fire hazards. Overloaded circuits, flickering lights, and discolored electrical outlets and light switch faceplates point to the need for electrical upgrades. Addressing these hazards can save lives, reduce injuries and cut economic losses caused by electrical fires.

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